Examining the challenges for telephone interpreters in New Zealand
The present research examines the perspectives of New Zealand-based telephone interpreters on the challenges they encounter at work. Telephone interpreting, as a new form of interpreting, is growing at a fast pace around the world and has been used widely in many different social service settings. However, little attention has been paid to the status quo of telephone interpreting services and the difficulties interpreters face. To the best of my knowledge, no research has been conducted in respect of telephone interpreting in New Zealand. The purpose of this study was to identify problems faced by telephone interpreters in New Zealand and provide possible solutions to address these difficulties through interpreter training and/or on-going professional development. The findings were based on a mixed method research study with a quantitative online survey and qualitative interviews. A total of 21 telephone interpreters participated in the survey and 9 telephone interpreters volunteered to be interviewed. The results indicated that for telephone interpreters in New Zealand the main challenges included a lack of information for preparation, the absence of visual messages and the difficulties of communicating with other parties (e.g. using direct/indirect speech, controlling turn-taking, interrupting the speakers, asking for clarification, avoiding side-talk and explaining the interpreter’s role). Additional challenges also included work stress, interpreters feeling isolated during interpreting work, the relatively low remuneration and the issues of work-life balance. The participants had developed, through their work experiences, their own strategies to deal with the problems stated above. According to the findings, most respondents in this research had participated in some form of interpreter training and had thought highly of such programmes. However, as the training they had had was on general interpreting, several respondents suggested it would be better to have training specifically on telephone interpreting. The study suggests that both interpreting education and on-going professional development, specifically through the accumulation of work experience, are important for telephone interpreters. It is also indicated that users of telephone interpreting services play an important part in telephone interpreting communication. If telephone interpreting users are educated on how to work with telephone interpreters, the communication will be more effective and efficient. Furthermore, it is also suggested that telephone interpreting providers develop a system on gathering feedback from users to help interpreters improve their performance. Telephone interpreters also need an open policy from employers regarding whether their interpreting performance will affect the employers’ prioritization of interpreters.